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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

Please to Forgive

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What Would Jesus Do?

Jonathan Swift
swift@softwareproblem.org

A while back Empedocles and I got in a spat. He demanded proof of my claim that I can make schizophrenics stop hallucinating just by talking to them. I'm not willing to produce such proof - not for him, not for anybody.

That's not what it's for. It's not a parlor trick. I do that kind of thing to ease the suffering of humanity's most unfortunate people. I don't have a problem with you folks not believing me.

What I do have a problem with though - a problem I have struggled with mightily over the years - is why you lot aren't able to do the same yourselves. I'll say it again: it is no more difficult for me to make a schizophrenic stop hallucinating than it is for me to say my own name.

You know what's really fucking hard? Reading written piano music. Drives me absolutely round the bend. I'm determined to learn how someday, but I don't see how that day can be anytime soon.

I was completely flummoxed last November when the entire staff at the Stanford Psych Ward were completely convinced that I was floridly delusional just for making this one individual claim. I don't have a problem with someone claiming I'm delusional - but this was like someone telling me I'm batshit insane for claiming that my poor vision requires that I wear glasses.

For that reason alone, the Stanford docs didn't want to discharge me. They only let me out when I told them I needed a job more than I needed any kind of mental health treatment.

Dr. G. then claimed that Adderall had caused this delusion by making me psychotic; for quite some time he refused to prescribe any more.

I readily admit that Adderall can cause all manner of grief. But one grief Adderall won't cause is a delusion that strikes twenty-three years before one starts taking it. I've been taking Adderall since July 2008. The first time I made a schizophrenic stop hallucinating was in July 1985.

I'm beginning to make some sense of it all though. I won't give the full explanation in just this one diary; one more, maybe two will be required. But there is a rational explanation for it all.

Skepticism first: I can do something that most mental health professionals are completely unable to. A good shrink can work wonders with a schizophrenic - but it takes a long time, typically years, and that shrink requires many years of difficult study, then training with real patients.

As far as I was able to tell, I was simply born with this ability. Yet the reason I myself initially entered psychotherapy was my complete inability to relate to the entire female half of the human race. How could it be that I possess such insight, when I am so plainly clueless about human nature?

So y'alls skepticism is indeed warranted.

Now the reason for the title to this diary: I wrote in the Conclusion to Living with Schizoaffective Disorder:

It is likely that you've heard or read the ramblings of a mentally ill person and written them off as inspired by delusion. But there is often truth behind even the most paranoid manifestoes, sometimes a terrible truth, if only you were able to decipher their real meaning.

In The Thought Police Academy, towards the end of My Deepest Fear, I went further by saying that it's not quite right that psychotics don't see the truth. We see metaphors, but we experience these metaphors as objective reality.

Clearly healing will occur if the Madman can first understand that he sees metaphors at all, then to identify each of his metaphors - and then, most importantly, to figure out what the metaphors actually symbolize.

You see, Adolf Hitler, The Unabomber, The Son of Sam, Charles Manson and myself, we all see or saw reality - but not in a direct way; we all experienced reality transformed into an encrypted message.

Starting last October, many of you claimed that I had become the craziest you had ever seen me. But I knew that I was not in any way crazy. Only two people out of all the people I know on the planet actually believed me: I knew I was not experiencing the symptoms of any kind of disease, but the symptoms of healing.

To the unaided eye, the two are completely indistinguishable.

To understand why I was freaking out so hard:

I have known for some time that I experience metaphors as reality. But I was unable to actually identify those metaphors.

Starting last October, those metaphors all, one by one in relentless succession, started making themselves plain as day to me. I found that experience rather hard to take.

Consider how Hitler might have felt, had he somehow been able to see the reality behind his own metaphors:

Hey, sorry about this whole Final Solution thing. You Jewish folks, you're OK by me, it's just been an unfortunate misunderstanding, that's all. I'll withdraw from the Soviet Union at once. No more London bombings, promise! And the Weimar Republic? Restored!

It turns out that in reality, I was angry, hurt and betrayed by the way my father beat me so relentlessly when I was a kid. I was unwilling to express my anger directly because I loved my father so much. I was only able to experience my unwelcome feelings by projecting them onto others - my Jewish friends, in my particular case.

Conspiracy theorists aren't exactly delusional, simply mistaken: the conspiracy is real, or at least was at one time. The mistake is our understanding of just who the conspirators really are, as well as the nature of the conspiracy.

My experience since last October has been much like Hitler's would have been, had he experienced such an insight.

This experience continues - that of understanding my metaphors. There are several of them; they are complex in their structure, so it has been taking a great deal of time, contemplation and experience for me to come to grips with them all.

I haven't slept in two days because of one of those metaphors.

Y'all remember how I checked myself into Stanford a month ago because I thought I was The Second Coming of Christ?

One of the more personally powerful of my metaphors.

It's not so much that I actually think I'm Jesus, not by any means.

Rather, the way I've experienced my world, the way I've always striven to live, has been in many ways the same as He did.

Jesus was the Son of God. Surely, had he chosen, he could have resided in a collossal palace, enjoyed fantastic riches, hobnobbed with the most powerful kings and emperors.

But no: that was not the way He chose to live. Neither has it ever been mine.

Jesus' best friends were prostitutes, beggars, lepers and criminals - the outcasts of his society. In India, they have the Untouchables.

I've always been that way.

It happens that three of my closest friends were strippers for many years. Two of them - an intimately devoted couple, a man and a woman, both strippers - invited me to a party at their house. I was one of only three men in attendance, along with more than a dozen ravishingly hot young women.

Strippers, the lot of them.

All my life I have collected among my friends the misfits and the outcasts. Addicts, alcoholics, criminals: you name it, they're My Homies.

But the ones I feel absolutely the most at-home with, the people that I understand in the deepest, most profound way, the people I regard as my Brothers and my Sisters?

... wait for it...

The Batshit Insane.

Your typical well-adjusted productive member of society, I am completely clueless about.

When I was in Stanford this last time, I introduced myself to a young woman who was a fellow patient:

"My name is Jon. What's yours?"

"E." she replied. "I'm your ex-wife."

That really threw me for a loop. Just for a moment or two, I found myself entertaining the idea that she really was Bonita, or rather, Bonita's soul somehow inhabiting E.'s body.

"I'm sorry, but no. You're not my ex-wife. My ex-wife is named Bonita. She lives in Nova Scotia."

E. and I went on to become the very best of friends. She absolutely adored my piano playing - I performed for her whenever I could.

E., I'm sorry to say, was quite far gone, and I expect will be quite far gone for the rest of her days. But at least for the time she and I were in the lockup together, I was able to give her the experience of true friendship.

Now: here is how you lot could make schizophrenics stop hallucinating, just as easy as saying your own names:

Be Compassionate.

Two Words. That's all it takes.

As far as I can tell, my only real talent is that I do not feel the revulsion that so many normal people feel, when faced with terrifying mental illness in others.

No, I treat them as if they were my own beloved, trusted friends. That's really all it takes.

Last evening as I walked out of Powells Books in downtown Portland, a whole whack of newly purchased head-shrinking books in hand, I came across a sad looking woman, sitting on the cold concrete sidewalk, holding a hand-lettered cardboard sign, asking for money so she could buy her insulin.

She is diabetic you see.

"My name is Jon. What's yours?"

"Pika."

"You look hungry. Let me buy you something to eat."

I took her to a restaurant, bought her a good meal. "Give this woman anything she wants," I said to the waiter.

I held up a twenty-dollar bill before her eyes. "I'm trusting you to use this to buy your medicine," I said, then gave it to her.

We spent some time talking while she ate - I just bought an orange juice for myself. I asked her about herself, about her life. Not any kind of in-depth head-shrinking introspection. Just small talk.

I know from past experience, women like Pika don't get to enjoy small talk over a nice meal in a restaurant very often at all.

I gave her my card so she could read my essays on mental illness by using the computers at the library. But that card also had my email and my cell phone number.

If you want to make schizophrenics stop hallucinating just by talking to them, a good start would be to take panhandlers out for a good meal.

Even if I can't help out, even if I have no change to spare, I introduce myself, ask their name, then offer to shake their hands.

The greatest kindness I have ever done, I am convinced, is that I shake the hands of those who society considers not to possess hands worth shaking.

Now: why two diaries, not just one:

Metaphors. Remember metaphors? Recognizing my metaphors?

There is another one. This One.

When I was hospitalized for totally batshit psychosis in April 1994, I felt it my personal responsibility to warn the entire world of the North Korean Nuclear Menace.

It was my starting to see that metaphor as it really was, that led to my driving myself - non-stop, do not pass go - to Stanford last November, then impressing upon them the urgency that they admit me.

This wasn't a simple metaphor.

This ability I have, to make schizophrenics stop hallucinating. I have always felt I was born with the ability. No one had to teach me; I knew instantly what to do the very first time I was called upon. It has worked every time I tried.

It turns out though, that I was not born with the ability.

No one taught me; I figured it out for myself. But it was not any kind of innate ability.

It was something I learned.

That North Korean Nuclear Menace?

It turns out that it consists of the perfectly rational, lucid, well-thought-out and well-supported explanation of just how I learned to make schizophrenics stop hallucinating.

That explanation was written thirty years ago by a prominent and highly respected psychologist.

I have known for some time that I needed to read it again.

Again.

That's the metaphor, you see: The Hydrogen Bomb.

As I came out of Powells last night, among my items was a live hand grenade with the pin already pulled.

I sat up all night long, pondering what to do with my lethal purchase.

I spent more than a little of last night - it's after seven the next morning now - quaking in abject terror.

Tell me: if someone throws a hand grenade at you, and it falls right at your feet, what's the right thing to do?

Throw Yourself On It.

That way, you can save the lives of your buddies by taking all its deadly shrapnel with your own body.

And get a Medal of Honor to boot!

Well, that's just what I did.

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