“She Drives Me Crazy” is a song recorded by the Fine Young Cannibals, included on their 1989 album The Raw and the Cooked. The song peaked at #5 as a single in the band’s native UK in January 1989 (it was released on New Year’s Day) before hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US on 15 April 1989. It also reached #3 on the Dutch Top 40.
Today, my wife sent me a very nice message. She said that she had been learning about Brian Wilson (of “The Beach Boys”). Apparently, he had been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but when he admitted that hearing voices was his only symptom, his diagnosis was changed.
My wife suggested that, because my main symptom is also hearing voices, that I might also not be schizophrenic.
I had this moment. What would life be like? What if I could regard myself as normal, as fully functional? I felt my ego beginning to swell.
Reality settled in pretty quickly. According to the voices symptom, if they constitute a steady pattern, that connotes a psychosis. And, to be honest, for me, they do.
When I am alone, I sense voices in my mind continuously.
What a nice thing for my wife to say. It gave me hope.
For a strange moment, I peered through the veil, and saw myself as maybe being healthy.
As the months go by, I become more and more aware of what I am trying to convey with this blog.
I think that one of my main goals might be to suggest that 2 words do not mean the same thing.
“Sanity” and “ability” are not synonyms.
In other words, I believe that a person might be sane and not able. Perhaps they are mentally healthy, but, for other reasons, struggle to survive in today’s world. They might have a physical limitation, or have other roadblocks getting in the way of being competitive.
A person might also be insane and able. Insane people are traditionally called “disabled”. There are many examples of mentally ill people who were quite able, in many ways– from John Nash to Syd Barrett, to (possibly) people like Nijinsky, Vincent van Gogh, and others.
Hence, when we say that someone is mentally ill, I believe that we really are referring to certain particular symptoms, and not to an all-around lack of ability.
To me, that is an important distinction. It asks healthy people to keep open minds about schizophrenia. It allows schizophrenics to feel hope that they still might be able to do great things.
Say you are mentally ill, or an advocate for the mentally ill, or are related to or friends with someone who has a mental illness. You have been reading this blog. Maybe you agree with some of its points, or benefit from the thoughts offered here.
What would I have you do?
I don’t want anyone to try to start a revolution. A new paradigm may be on its way for mental health treatment, but I am not asking people to hold up signs, boycott clinics, confront healthcare professionals, or call Senators.
I don’t want you to do nothing, however. If you read this blog, simply digest it, and go on with things, that would make me feel like this effort is being wasted.
What I would suggest is that I have been presenting people with some new perspectives about what it’s like to have schizophrenia, and how the greater modern reality involves and reflects aspects of mental illness.
I would ask that people who are not mentally ill try to resist the urge to categorize schizophrenic people as being existentially inferior or completely disabled. Their abilities might surprise you.
I would also request that schizophrenics and other mentally ill people realize that they may have hidden resources, and therefore they should not give up and become consumers in every way.
I am really asking for some slight changes in attitude– changes that would only benefit people by raising their levels of consciousness.
“What To Do With Words”
A Poem By Thomas Park
You could pretend they were warm
And wear them
(The approaching cold would feel only sharper)
Use them like a bullhorn, try
To herd people
(They are like cats, and would go their own way)
Words could indicate objects
(Which you would miss when they were gone)
I could tell your story
(But it might make you feel uncomfortable)
Maybe I will play an old record,
And drag you down with me
Words best suggest, without proving
Admit to frustration, without resolving
Words connect us, like strained nerves
Narrate human effort
I am not afraid of holidays, as some people are. I do not have seasonal affective disorder. I also have no special reason not to look forward to Christmas.
But, what can I say– it is true that being 46 and schizophrenic is different than being 12 and healthy– and this seems especially true on Christmas.
And that’s ok. Recent years, I am no longer the center of attention, making a huge pile of wrapping paper, and shouting about everything I open.
There is still a place for me, in the corner, from which I can watch the rest of my family celebrating.
I feel fortunate, just to be alive on this day, to be forgiven my sins by Christ, and to celebrate his birth with family.
My thoughts go to the sick, and, especially to those stuck outside, with nowhere warm to sleep or rest. May God protect them.
And to those alone, please realize– you are not really alone. You are just sitting in your own corner, like I will be, and many like me– and many like you.
I hope you can find peace nonetheless.
My schizophrenia has resulted in a certain type of sensitivity. I don’t want to indicate that reality has a formless, absurd quality– I don’t want to deny anything– or, at least, without affirming something else that is equally viable.
I have to end every phrase on an “up” note. I am afraid to seem negative, or to bring people down.
Through work experiences, and as a result of getting older, I am picking up a new technique– the power to deny.
Much can be accomplished in life by suggesting things, coming up with more and more ideas, and more and more encouragement.
At a certain point, a person has to negate things, as well.
In a work environment, since I often play a role of watcher– sitting quietly, observing a space, and making sure that everything stays as it should be, I find that my thoughts tend towards temptations. My point then is to deny those temptations.
Indeed, for many periods of time, I seem to be conceiving of temptations, and simply nullifying them using my mind and will-power.
Thoughts that don’t help need to be eradicated, before they are realized.
That is why I often exercise– my “Power To Deny”.
“Skim Milk, Cream”
A Poem By Thomas Park
In the painting, the poet
Sat calmly at his desk, feathered pen in hand
Myself, I was visiting a friend
Out of money, mind blurry
Perhaps that was one of several times
That I went off of my meds
To prove my ability
Jake let me into his apartment
He had tracked my degeneration
Watched me get sick
He set a cd on the floor, spun it
Spoke to me of truth, hallucination
Light reflected off of the disc’s metal surface
He handed me a jar of pennies and nickels
I left the apartment
I carried the coins to the bus stop,
(They would help with fare home
And food for some days)
The bus door opened, my pants,
Too large, began to fall down
Pulling them up, I dropped the change jar
The bus of commuters
Watched mutely as hundreds of pennies and nickels
Spilled in the steps of the bus
On the street, the sidewalk
Observed patiently as I picked them up
Frantically, with great shame
I gave a few of Jake’s coins to the driver
And started my journey home
At this point, you might imagine
That I am cleaning my poet’s pen
And returning it to its jar
As the writer Philip K. Dick suggests,
“Things Are Not Always As They Seem
Skim Milk Masquerades As Cream”.