Memory Loss

The mind certainly has its mysteries.

I think my mind had fewer of them before I started experimenting with drugs. In fact, some might suggest that my collegiate substance abuse contributed to or led to my schizophrenia. (Though that is a hotly contested topic. Many folks don’t want to admit that pot and/or acid can be harmful).

Back when I smoked pot every day, I developed a problem. I lost much of my short-term memory.

People might suggest that that is not big deal, and that the euphoria and other pleasing effects of smoking dope make the drug worth it.

But, believe me. . .

As soon as I did something I knew I had to remember, I would silently scream it to myself, repeatedly, for example– “MY KEYS ARE IN MY COAT! MY KEYS ARE IN MY COAT!”.

I wrote a lot of stuff down. I had to– I thought it would all be wiped clean from my pot-riddled brain. Luckily, I usually could read my own notes– though even I occasionally found my handwriting to be inscrutable.

Luckily, marijuana-induced short-term memory-loss does not seem to be permanent, at least for me.

I quit using drugs, got cleaned up, and worked on improving my powers of focus and concentration.

Nowadays, I am as often the one who remembers, as the one who forgets.

I have found my wife’s keys for her a number of times. Whenever it happens, it’s like a ray of light appears from above– “Oh my God! I remembered! I can remember things!”

Hallelujah, Amen.

Solitude Versus Isolation

When I was a child, I was deemed healthy. I lived at home with my parents and sister, got good grades, and lived what most would regard as a normal middle-class existence.

In high school, I believe I showed symptoms of depression. There was a period of time when I grew apart from my family and friends– this may have eventually led, at least in part, to my becoming schizophrenic.

In fact, I was always a fan of solitude.

But, where does one draw the line between solitude and isolation? What is the difference between being a child who liked to be alone, to daydream or read books, and a man in his thirties spending all day every day alone in an apartment writing music?

Degree, I suppose, is the difference.

That being said, I wanted to share a poem I wrote about my love of solitude:

“Norman”
A Poem By Thomas Park

Life goes by quickly
And there is much to do

Duties need attending to, and that is
Norman’s purpose

At work, they knew his birthday,
Threw a party (Had soda, cake)

All was well, though

A sense of mystery
Surrounded Norman

A shadow, perhaps a haze

No history, no libido
(Or that was muffled)

No sense of style

Khaki slacks, unironed
Pressed by the dryer

Brandless polo shirts
Of muted hues

Or perhaps it was

That Norman himself
Found certain things inconvenient

There’s too much truth in old stories
Fraternity hijinks
“Borrowing” Dad’s Car

Worse, Norman’s pivotal moment
Involved neither a parade nor award ceremony

It was the late 1970’s
Norman was curled in a ball,
In his pajamas
Near the heating duct
The family dachshund was by his side
The muffled sound of television
And parental voices
Were largely ignored, it was
A moment of blissful meditation

It was the best 5 minutes of Norman’s life

A State Of Readiness

As a person with schizophrenia who has tried to re-assimilate, I have had some interesting experiences. One involves a state of readiness.

Live tends to throw a person things they don’t expect. Sometimes, sure, a person might not even feel like they deserve them– for better or worse.

To seek health, I had to cultivate a sense of readiness. I had to train myself to be prepared for things that I could not predict or control.

For someone like me, that can be hard. I am a very habit-forming person. Ask my wife.

That being said, being prepared is really redemptive.

The two most helpful forces in my life– my job and my wife, are helpful to a large degree in that they break my patterns up. They throw me curves. Thanks to them, I have learned that I am able to react to sudden problems and new issues without panicking.

When schizophrenics isolate, they often settle into a kind of predictable medicated haze. This is accentuated by television, the internet, cigarettes, cheap booze, and so forth.

The way to get better is to get out and experience life. And, let’s face it– that won’t always be easy. A person has to learn to roll with the unknown.

In short, you have to do the opposite of what many health care professionals might recommend, protective as they can be. You have to leave your nest and fly a bit.

Contentment

Are there any advantages to mental illness?

For me, one might be a lack of contentment.

“LACK of contentment?”, you might ask?

I believe my schizophrenia is a main factor in helping me to be a producer, rather than a consumer.

I enjoy, not just writing for this blog, but also composing music, recording phonography, painting abstract paintings, creating prints, writing poetry and essays and other forms of art.

I am so accustomed to creating (and enjoying) my own media, that I have fallen out of touch with popular culture. When I join my wife in the living room, I tend not to like or have patience for what I see on the television. I also feel uncomfortable consuming other people’s art, rather than creating my own.

From my perspective, it seems perfectly reasonable to create over 5000 audio works in 15 years. Others might immediately suggest that that is an absurd amount of music, connoting mental illness.

Can’t I just make my point and quit? What keeps me going?

It’s a sense of feeling incomplete, of wanting to create more, or, at least, to express more– to do it better, to fill in the gaps. There is so much that goes unexpressed in this world. In my free time, I try to remedy this.

I can’t help but to imagine that a sane person might be patient enough to pense silently.

Not a crazy man like myself.

More From Matthew Freeman

Prose can be clear, blog entries cogent and concise. Sometimes, nothing communicates as well as poetry, and Matt Freeman does that very, very well.

Here are some more poems he has sent me, so that I am able to feature them here.

Dignity

I keep seeing this rich
therapist in Chesterfield
because I feel sorry for him.

We both pretend
that my Medicaid is
paying for it when we
both know it’s not.

He says, “Oh Matt, tell me
about the time you thought
St Louis was Athens. Tell me
why you buried your license
in Forest Park. Let me in
on the revisions and secrets!”

I have to point out to him
that when a girl
at the bar raises her finger
sometimes it means
get away
and sometimes it means
that she hates her boyfriend.

After I told him what
was really going on in
the emergency room he
seemed to get a little
high. But then I brought
him down with the
inevitability of genuine angst.

Whenever he hears a slight
motion behind us at the
door I tell him it’s only
a blind dude passing by.
I’m always asserting
that a deflowering cannot
take place in a vacuum.

And all of this is because of SSI and
the time and repeat and dignity it
gave me.

Appointment

Whenever I have to go down
Euclid to Barnes-Jewish
I get off the 97
at Kingshighway right by
the sorrowful KFC instead
of having to walk by Left Bank
and suffer all the humiliation
that comes with it and have
to remember what I said in
the ruins of Duff’s when
I was in some prior state
like I was the Lizard King again
before everything got sinister and ugly
and even Now counts as a holy relic
and is the result
of a change of a disconcerted
consciousness and even now
I had to be the Other and belong
because of the quadruple metaphor
of the guy outside Coffee Cartel
saying “You have to pump it up”
and as I elegantly go forth
to be mistaken for a gnosis I know
they do not know this process down at Barnes.

The Fury

It’s getting harder and harder
to read.

I am all done with experience,
the possibility
in a raised finger,
the indication
of a rising and falling chest.

I saw the Greatest Mental Patient
of All Time and
time laid waste sitting
on the steps
of the Masonic Temple
with his busted feather and white lie
wearing a paisley tie
he got from the Salvation Army,

all he did was sit and smoke
until suddenly an Idea lit him up
and he got up and started walking
away, saying goodbye, only
the outer part of a beautiful dream,
sinless, still smoldering
just a little bit.

Quiet and Loud

I think I drank
too much coffee
again.

(they took Lesbia’s
picture off
the internet)

It’s disgusting in the waiting room.
Everyone’s having sex but they don’t
even know it. If they came
into that knowledge
they would cease
to exist.

And being a doctor’s just
totally sublimation
for being crazy.

I spot a pretty Catholic girl
in sneakers and beautifully
clean and rich workout clothes.
I walk up to her and whisper,
“Do you really feel like I do?”

A New Kind of Clean

Oh, I don’t think nobody’s
ever felt this way before.

I had finally reached The Impossible Thing—
in the shape of a beautiful heiress
wearing fur and walking her dog
down on Washington while Chief was
weeping at the bar and this release was
everything was so easy—so they
put me on three antipsychotics at once
and sent me home with a PRN of Haldol

and then the window wouldn’t open and the
TV beloved TV wouldn’t turn on and the CD
player was broke and I tried to put a little
wine and bread on the windowsill and the
air was dull and the phone did become a
little less paranoid but unfortunately I
was unable to talk at all and people were
like are you gonna get a job and I sat there
stiff and tears wouldn’t come and this big
environment which was once mine for
the taking had turned on me simply pulled
out and now I was too introverted to see.

Problematic Assertions

I have touched on the issue of the “imperfect narrator”. Most views of the modern person suggest that people, in modernity, have self-awareness. Probably people have been self-aware throughout history, but due to the nature of modernity, with overpopulation, increased communication capabilities, and other phenomena, we are now more conscious of ourselves, and we know that we have limitations.

Mentally ill people, especially, often develop a practical sense of humility, due to issues specific to them and how they are regarded.

A modern man who viewed himself as King Louis XIV would be laughed at, and probably sent to treatment. We are just people– we do what we can. We make mistakes. God may move us, He may animate us, but we are– well, “common”.

This is all well and good, but the issue arises that, at times, an assertion must be made. There is an issue, perhaps– a person sees an answer, or a better way. They want to share that answer.

Because they are fallible, because they are steeped in a pool with so many others, their voices are drowned. Nothing changes. The are not King Louis, to change their nation by edict (even if they imagined they were). They are, for what it’s worth, just citizens.

I remember when a number of protests were erupting in Saint Louis, concerning the death of a young man by the gun of a police officer. I supported the protests, in a way, at first. After several weeks, I started to think that the people involved should probably leave the streets and meet at a discussion table with the police and other politicos.

When I recommended this (and, of course, it was in the troubled forum of social media), I was met with some agreement, and a lot of negative energy. Suffice it to say, that just because I thought of a possible answer– it had no tangible result.

That seems pretty obvious, in retrospect. It does, however, raise the question– for a modern person, and particularly one with schizophrenia, whose views have been doubted in the past– if some productive or pro-active point were to be made– how would this be done? We see ourselves in this reduced sense, perhaps even as figures of camp. Who are we to address the world’s problems?

If we found a solution– who would listen?

An Increasingly Common Sickness

My wife and I were watching a movie in which apes had become fully sentient, and could communicate with one another much like humans. The creatures were repeatedly tortured and murdered in the film. I grew increasingly uncomfortable watching it, wondering if I was supposed to feel extreme pity and guilt throughout, or to write the apes off as not being worth my feelings.

It’s a problem I have more and more. I walk into a room– a movie or show is on the screen. I see something profoundly disturbing. I have a hard time figuring out how to react. If I laugh off  sexual or violent imagery as being part of life, and not to be taken seriously, then I fail to empathize. Inappropriate reactions are, incidentally, a symptom of schizophrenia.

If I take what I see too seriously, I literally torture myself. And no one seems to be doing that.

A friend pointed out that he had a profound reaction to watching a video where a person really and actually shot and killed another. This is something new to the world– with social media and cellphones, many of us have watched people killed (much as, for example, people in the military or on the police force have).

I suspect a lot of things. One of my suspicions has been that we as a society are being trained to separate what we see from what we feel. We are slowly being taught not to empathize with others when they suffer.

I can’t imagine why this would be, unless it is a tool to help us to cope with living in a first world country, with all of the Empire, military action and other such activities that go on.

A profound and universal pity would cause us to feel continuously, deeply guilty, We would be rendered ineffective– unable to cope with day to day reality.