Fear of Myself, AKA Another Psychotic Episode

Before reading this, I just want to say this: please don’t judge me. I am not a dangerous person. I simply had a very dark episode yesterday, and I debated posting about it. In the end I decided to write about it because I feel the need to get it off my chest, and I don’t see my therapist until Tuesday.

I had a psychotic episode yesterday. The first one I’ve acted on in at least a year. The last time, I killed a bunch of crickets because I felt they were conspiring against me. This time, I sliced up my left arm.

I think my psychotic self (I prefer to distance myself from my psychosis) has some sort of fascination with blades–during a different episode I cut three deep gashes into the wall of my bedroom with a pocketknife. But this time, out of some kind of irrational, sick sense of curiosity or something I took a large knife and slashed the nearest available flesh–my own arm.

I wasn’t suicidal in the least, and I did not aim for my wrist.

I remember vividly the sight of my skin slicing open, and the blood welling up after a few seconds. What I don’t remember is any pain, thankfully. If I felt it I was unaware of it. Instead I felt something akin to pleasure. Then after a while my psychosis passed, as it always does, and I panicked.

The first thing I did was hold my hand against the wounds to staunch the bleeding. Then I ran upstairs to the first aid kit and secured a gauze pad to my arm, cutting the medical tape with my teeth. Then I wasn’t sure what to do. I just kind of stood there, dazed, shaken, and literally shivering. After about half an hour, I decided to call a friend, because I felt I needed to talk to someone, confess what I had done. I could tell at first she was trying not to freak out, but she didn’t, and I appreciate her so much for that and for talking sense back into me. I was debating whether I should tell about my episode because I didn’t want to get sent back to the mental ward, not with all the work I have to do this close to the end of the year. She helped me set my priorities straight, however. School is important, but it comes second to the safety of myself and others.

So I see my psychiatrist tomorrow and my psychologist the day after. If they decide I need to be committed, I will be unhappy with the decision, but I will go with it. Though I don’t think they will, seeing as I’m no longer psychotic, just a little dazed and still shaken.

To any readers of this post, please understand. I am not some kind of knife-wielding creep. I am normally just a quiet, shy student of psychology. Harmless.

Damaged Goods

So the other night I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds, and the killer was the son of a sociopath who had tormented him all his life. The killer killed as a result of this, so to speak, and at the end of the episode, goes to the same prison as his father and stabs him several times, presumably killing him. One quote from the episode stood out to me, “The son of a sociopath. Did he ever really have a chance?”

This is interesting to me because I am fairly sure my own father was a sociopath. Well, okay, is a sociopath. It’s easier to think of him as something from the past since I no longer have any contact with him. Now, realize, I am not a licensed professional. I can’t really diagnose anyone. But based on my textbooks and other research I have done, I truly believe this is true. He perfectly fits the bill for antisocial personality disorder, which is what they call psychopaths/sociopaths these days. Even Hare’s sociopathy checklist fits him.

I think I mentioned on a different post that my biggest fear is being forgotten after death. Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true. It’s certainly my second-biggest fear, but my biggest fear is becoming anything like my father. I realized I sometimes go out of my way to help people just to be different from that manipulative, selfish bastard. But then, I am not really helping people for the sake of helping them, either, am I? I’m being just as selfish–helping people only because it distances me from being what I hate.

Part of me–no, more than part of me. All of me wants to make him feel pain. I half-wish my mother’s and stepfather’s worst wish would come true and he would show up at my doorstep with the intent of finishing me off (he very nearly killed me when I was younger), just so that I could finally attack him first. They say revenge is bittersweet, but I don’t believe that to be true, not really. Or maybe it is: I would most certainly end up behind bars.

I realize that attacking or killing him would leave me no better than he is. But–here’s the scary part–when I think of revenge, that doesn’t even bother me. Other times I have violent tendencies, particularly when I’m psychotic, it scares me when the feelings pass. But when I think of revenge against my father, it doesn’t. I know that the fact I could kill him and feeling nothing afterward should scare me. It doesn’t.

Am I really any better than him? I don’t know anymore. Surely I am capable of empathy, which he wasn’t. Aren’t I? I have always had difficulty maintaining relationships with people. But the fact that I keep trying to is a good sign, right?

Maybe I need a break from thoughts like these.

I feel like I hardly know myself.

Mental Illnesses?

I was just reflecting on how in the past, any behavior that was considered not socially acceptable was labeled a mental illness. Of note: Back in the days of United States slavery, drapetomania, characterized by a slave’s desire to escape his/her master (and considered treatable by beating); Soviet Russia had sluggish schizophrenia, characterized by political dissent; Until relatively recently, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Facts like these give the anti-psychiatry movement ammunition. I mean, it was enough to make me wonder: where do we draw the line between socially unacceptable behavior and mental illness?

Please note: I am not saying mental illness doesn’t exist. I don’t believe that and I would consider it offensive if someone said that to me.

I’m just saying, it seems like there’s a lot of power within the field of psychology that people don’t really realize. If you attach psychology to political purpose (as in the case of the first two examples) or religion (as in the case of the third example), the science is no longer pure but clouded by men’s often twisted motives.

If science, and this includes psychology, ever has a motive, it should only be to better humanity. That’s it.

That is something I will adhere to when I obtain my degree.

Creativity and Mental Illness

So there’s a much talked-about link between mental illness and creativity. Schizophrenics see the world in ways others cannot, and they apply their views of the world to paint and paper, the resulting piece of art is typically haunting and surreal, and often very good. Bipolars are often said to be excellent writers, especially in their manic stages. But does the whole mental illness-creativity thing apply to psychotic depression?

I don’t know if it does or does not. I only know what I know about myself, and that is that I am an excellent writer (usually) and pretty good at drawing (usually). I say usually because, when in the deepest depths of abject despair and depression, my ability to write or draw goes away entirely. That’s not to say I can’t write when I’m depressed at all, though the work I do in a depressed state tends to be noticeably darker. I just can’t write when the depression gets to a certain point of severity.

I love to write. I was writing stories from a very early age. In fact, I learned to write and read so early and well that my teachers had difficulty keeping up with me, and in order to keep my mind challenged, they had me tutoring first-graders when I was in kindergarten. I still enjoy reading greatly, as well as writing.

I was also drawing from an early age. I don’t consider my drawing to be as good as my writing, but I still enjoy doing it whenever I have free time. I like to challenge myself by trying to draw from memory or by timing myself. Here’s a drawing of a jackdaw that I did in five minutes.

I wonder if there really is a link between creativity and mental illness at all, however. I mean, some people in any given population are going to be good at art. Maybe the good art from mental wards gets more attention? I don’t know.

It’s interesting to think about, though.

That Other Me

So I mentioned in an earlier post my personal metaphor for my depression, the black bird on my shoulder. Well, that corvid has a brother, and his name is psychosis.

I’ve mentioned in some other posts some things I’ve done when I was less than rational. So far, nothing too bad (that is, no self-injuries or injuries to others.) I rarely act on psychotic impulses, and always, after having a break from reality, I return to myself and am capable of realizing that what I just thought (or heard) was not rational. But still, the fact that it happens, however brief, scares me. It’s a disturbing thing to not be able to trust your own mind. There’s no guarantees how I’ll act. Especially toward other people. I once got into a shouting match with my parents because I was suddenly convinced they were conspiring against me, talking about me behind my back. Of course I apologized afterward, but still.

And I’m terrified that one day I’ll have a psychotic break, say, in a store or in the middle of class one day. It would be terribly embarrassing.

The worst thing about having psychotic depression, in my opinion, is that I am sane enough to lead a normal life, with just enough craziness to disturb that life and make it really hard to manage sometimes.

As long as this, the sane, “real”, non-psychotic me has the wheel, though, things will be okay. And my antipsychotic medication has actually lessened the occurrences of psychosis.

I just go on living, hoping that the psychotic version of myself stays hidden in the recesses of my mind, somewhere in those dark corners that I don’t like to explore.

A Rant

People often ask me where my morals come from, since I don’t have a religion. I rejected my mother’s and stepfather’s religion (Christianity) years ago, when I was a kid. Then, my reasoning was that a just God, a God who was truly the pinnacle of everything good, would not allow such suffering as I was blindly dealing with and could not comprehend then. And certainly He would not allow the far worse suffering that millions around the globe go through every day. That was my reasoning then. I still hold that sentiment today, though I’ve found numerous small reasons why I disagree with Christianity (and other religions) as well.

My morals come from decisions I make from my observations of the world. The old Roman doctor’s motto “First, do no harm”–I may not be a doctor, but I have taken it heart. I go out of my way to not cause others pain, and I wish to ease the suffering of others whenever I can, though lately I have been wondering what the point of it is, really, when the world is just going to create more suffering. It’s due to the nature of humans, I have realized. People are inherently selfish, greedy–looking out only for themselves and sometimes a few people close to them. Note that I don’t call them evil. Good and evil are human constructs; they don’t exist in nature (is the lion evil for eating the zebra? I don’t think so). And yet even I still use the terms, when describing something that goes against my own morals, which I tend to stick to against all else; it’s something I’m proud of myself for. But sometimes the world just seems like too much, and maybe this is my psychotic depression talking, but sometimes I’m not certain this is a world I even want to live in. Sometimes when the feeling is especially overpowering, I half-wish a great meteor would strike the Earth and wipe out the human race, leaving only ancient ruins for the next species to evolve on the planet to ponder at. Maybe the next species would get it right. Probably not.

That’s pretty dark, and incredibly misanthropic, I know. But sometimes that’s just who I am–a misanthrope who paradoxically continues to strive for good in the world, even if I don’t believe it will ultimately make any difference. People will continue to wage genocide, people will continue to live large while others starve, people will continue to hate/fear what they don’t understand, and that includes other people, such as the mentally ill.

Speaking of hating and fearing what we don’t understand, and linking back to earlier talk about atheism, I certainly don’t understand death (no one alive does) and part of me certainly fears it. For all I know, to die is to cease to exist–a flame simply gone after burning brightly describes it well. For a while, I feared death so much that I feared sleep (dying unware is what I really feared here–at least when you’re awake and you have a heart attack, you feel it coming). I literally developed insomnia; I would stare up at the ceiling from my bed until my brain finally force-quit my body into its sleep mode. Eventually, I came to hope that maybe, somehow, there is something after death, and that eased my mind a little–it still does. I know it’s irrational, but what else is there to hope for? I can’t stand the thought of not existing at all. So in that way I’ve come to terms with death.

I’m nearing the end of my rant now. I have things to do for my psychology class. Isn’t it funny; part of the reason I’m even going into the field of psychology is to help people. I wonder what that says about me.

Maybe part of me still has some hope for the world, after all.

Another Downward Spiral

And I was doing so well last week, too. Getting stuff done (and staying up way too late doing it, and still not feeling the tiredness) was what I was all about last week. It felt great. The depression was nowhere in sight.

But all things pass in time, and now I can feel it. Coming back with a vengeance. The great black bird has returned to my shoulder and the painful grip of its talons seems unbreakable.

Last night was the worst I’ve had in months. It was pretty ironic, because I had seen my psychiatrist that very day, and we had discussed how it seemed I was doing much better, especially compared to when I had first started seeing him. And this is true: I was doing really well for a while there.

But that night irrational thoughts pervaded my mind, and I found myself drifting off into the dark nebula of depression without an anchor. Or at least, so I thought. Knowing I needed to ground myself, and quickly–because the thoughts of suicide were rising in my mind like a massive tide–I initiated a conversation with a friend of mine. He and I live miles away right now, so I messaged him. It occurs to me that I could have called him, but that’s how much of a burden I was feeling like–I didn’t want to drag him down into a conversation with me.

Even as I typed to him, half of me–okay, that’s a lie–most of me wanted to simply tell him goodbye. But the rest of me forced me to keep talking until the most gripping of the feelings passed.

I realize, of course, that the moment such powerful suicidal ideas returned to me I should have called either my psychologist or psychiatrist or any professional at all. But I didn’t. I also could have told my friend the truth when he asked me if everything was alright. But I didn’t. And for that, I’m disappointed in my self. I’m not the type to break a promise, but I broke my promise to my friends and family to call a professional when I felt this way again.

But this whole incident made me realize something. My friends are really the only reason I keep going. I only keep a handful of close friends, but they mean everything to me. And my family, too. And I even think about all the professionals who have expended so much time and energy on me. If I killed myself, I’d be letting them all down. So even if I don’t want to live for myself, I can find it in me to keep going for all of them.

For anyone who might read this post, please let me make this clear: I am no longer in this state of mind. Sure, I’m still very depressed, but the suicidal ideation was gone when I woke up this morning. So don’t be concerned.

As always, I think I’ll be okay.

Mass Effect 3

 

  So yesterday, I found some time and finally beat Mass Effect 3. Yes, it took me a month, not because I’m some kind of terrible player but because I’ve been terribly busy lately.

Anyway, I thought I’d do my own little review of the game.

My overall thoughts were that it was a great game, ending be damned. Yes, okay, I had some problems with the ending myself: there wasn’t enough closure, and it was completely unclear what your decision meant for the crew of the Normandy, or the galaxy as a whole. The only thing that was obvious was that the threat of the Reapers was finally demolished and Shepard became a legend. And, of course, that humanity eventually rebuilt itself to point of space travel-capability again, as implied by that short, after-credits scene with the grandfather and the little boy. But hell, at least Bioware listened. They’re releasing a free DLC that will serve as a proper epilogue for the game, and I assume that it will take into account the decisions of players in order to give them the most appropriate, customized ending for their respective games.

I thought that, with the exception of the very, very ending, the game was exceptional, as usual for a Bioware game, it seems like. It was a great last game in a trilogy of games that continued to impress me. The character development, level of depth of the universe created, and all the attention to detail that had been present in the previous two games were there in the last.

In particular, I liked how close Shepard and Garrus had become (even if you didn’t put a romance between them). By the end of the third game, it’s clear that Shepard and Garrus would go through Hell with each other at their sides. (Which is another reason I’m sort of looking forward to that epilogue update–I took Garrus with me on the final mission, and I would like to know what happens to him; did he really die there in that Reaper blast?) I also liked Garrus’s own character development, which you as the player (and as Commander Shepard) influence.

The character that I find most fascinating, though, was by far The Illusive Man, that chain-smoking idealist. At least, it was clear by the end that he had started off as an idealist, who really only wanted to help humanity. Somewhere along the way, he become indoctrinated and corrupted by the Reapers. I can honestly say that in a game full of successfully poignant deaths, the Illusive Man’s really got to me with that “Earth…if only you could see it as I do, Shepard. It’s so…perfect.”

Another aspect of the game I liked involved the actual gameplay. The enemy AI was noticeably improved, and it seems they gave the character more in-combat dialogue so we didn’t have to listen to the same phrases over and over again as in the previous games.

So again, overall, I thought Mass Effect 3 was a great game. Sad to see my favorite trilogy end, but glad that it managed to impress me the way through. Thanks, Bioware, for a great trilogy of games.

Or as Garrus would say, “Impressive.”

 

Writings

Thought I would post a short story I wrote some time ago. It’s about… well, it’s pretty short, I’ll just let you read it. I wrote it back when I was in a pretty dark state of mind, and perhaps it shows just a little.

You can find it by following this link: https://thementalchronicles.wordpress.com/works-of-fiction/an-exercise-in-irony/

Or by scrolling down to the bottom of the page, hovering over “Works of Fiction” and then clicking “An Exercise In Irony.”

In other news, I finished a seven-page critical analysis paper, which is to be my big final major paper for the class. We were to choose any work of fiction, and with no outside sources, write a literary analysis of the work. I chose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?– which shouldn’t come as any big surprise, given that I am a huge sci-fi nerd. The book is pretty different from the film in subtle ways, but the main difference is that the point of the book is to answer the question of what it means to be human.

The answer the novel provides is this: to be human is to have empathy. Without it, so says Mr. Philip K. Dick, we are nothing more than intelligent machines. I find that such a fascinating answer to the age-old question.

Very different from Anthony Burgess’s views on the human condition. In his novel, A Clockwork Orange, he argues essentially that sociopaths (who have no empathy whatsoever) are still humans. His more specific point is that altering their behaviors through classical conditioning to be more empathic is morally questionable. Not sure if I agree with him, but he does present an interesting dilemma.

But back to my seven-page paper: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really proud of myself. I got it all done in one night, around one in the morning. The strangest part is that I wasn’t tired at all. The only reason I went to bed two hours later is because I convinced myself it was the healthiest thing to do, but even then I had trouble getting to sleep. I’m not going to complain, though. I’ve been getting a lot done lately.

That Cyberpunk Aesthetic

So I can tell I’m starting to come out of my latest huge depressive episode. I know this because I feel like writing, and ideas are actually coming to me again. Right now, I and my friend who is a short film maker are collaborating on a new project. I’ve never worked with him before, but I’ve been impressed with his work before. I’m writing the script, and he’s directing the short film.

The genre of the project?

Science fiction, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who has been following my blog. And the more specific genre: cyberpunk/tech noir.

I wonder what it is about that genre that fascinates me. Well, for one thing, movies and novels within it tend to be pretty good: Blade Runner, The Matrix, Neuromancer… even Tron: Legacy is cyberpunk and it was a decent film (very visually pleasing, though I had some problems with the plot), probably the only Disney film ever to fall under this genre.

But I think there’s more to it than that. The futuristic cities–bright neon, flying cars–are pretty darn cool and make for beautiful and amazing visual, even they are always dystopias. And there’s the element of human nature that cyberpunk encompasses: humans are greedy, selfish, simple as that (even the cops are always corrupt or at best within the gray region of morality).

And it’s a genre that appeals to the imagination. Every work is an exercise in thought about what could possibly arise if technology does advance to the point of true AI. Whether the machines will be used as slaves for humans (as in Blade Runner) or the other way around (as in The Matrix), it’s an interesting to concept to explore.

The central question of most cyberpunk/tech noir works seems to be this: what makes us human?

And this is a question not easily answered. But these films and books certainly try.